Why Do We Always Put Love On Top?

I spent my entire single early 20s resenting the value that our society places on being in a long term relationship and, ultimately, getting married. I come from a family of couples who met when they were teenagers and against all odds have stayed married for decades. Growing up I always felt, especially as a girl, that the greatest achievement in my family’s eyes would be getting married and having kids. This is through no fault of anyone in my family. Nobody has ever put pressure on me to have a partner, and my mother is also the single most career driven woman and person that I know. However, when you grow up surrounded by people that were with their ‘person’ by the time they were 20, it gives you the impression that this is how life should be.

I was single for nearly all of college and largely for the first half of my twenties. Like many other single, overdramatic twenty-something women, during this period I believed I’d be single forever and ultimately die alone. Would I be a failure because I never became a wife? I was convinced that despite achieving my dream of moving to London to work in finance at the age of 21, without a boyfriend no one viewed me as a success story. I felt myself resenting my friends and peers who were in long term relationships, and rejecting the idea that just because they’d made the (questionable) decision to snog the same person for the most free years of their life, that they were more successful or settled than me.

Then, as is always the case with life, I got thrown a curveball in the form of a goofy and gorgeous boy from Lincolnshire. As soon as I knew that things between us were serious and real, I felt an internal shift. For as much as I resented all the happy couples and their OTT anniversary posts on Instagram when I was single, once I was in a committed relationship myself I resented the people who (like single me) begrudged me the ability to celebrate the fact that I’d actually found a boy who wasn’t a complete shit-dick. Finding a boy who will even text you back in 2018 London was a massive feat, and I wanted to be able to celebrate us without feeling like I was placing more weight on my romantic achievements than my career and personal achievements.

This entire experience was extremely enlightening for me, and it gave me one massive, eye opening takeaway. We SHOULD celebrate our relationships. Finding love is extremely difficult and often heartbreaking, so if we are lucky enough to come across it, even temporarily, that is absolutely something to celebrate. Where society gets it wrong is putting so much emphasis on celebrating romantic love. I have known my best friend Zoë since the day she was born, and we have been inseparable for nearly 25 years since. I have maintained for years that Zoë is my life’s greatest love story and always will be. The odds of staying friends with someone for a quarter century in this day and age is about as likely as the odds of finding a boy in London who doesn’t ghost you after 3 dates, and yet there isn’t a day on the calendar dedicated to roses, chocolate, and female friendships (except for Galentine’s Day… but that is less a holiday and more a recent internet fad).

So, let’s stop judging each other for whatever form of love we choose to celebrate. Love, whether it is romantic love or friendship love or the kind you have for your sister when she surprises you with Starbucks, is fucking hard to come by and even harder to hold onto. Frankly, I think it is a good thing that society puts so much weight on it. At the end of the day, our careers will ebb and flow, but what will matter is how much we were able to love those around us. But if you are single and frustrated and resentful of all the loved up people around you, just remember that romantic love is not the only love worth celebrating… and if you want you can even celebrate it by snogging everyone in sight.

 

Leaving Home to Go Home

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” -Miriam Adeney

I recently went home to Chicago for the holidays. It was as magical as it always is, and I returned to London in the first week of January feeling utterly full both in heart and in waistline. Leaving the people and the city I love so much never gets any easier with each visit home, but it has become drastically different. The first two years or so after moving to London, I’m less than proud to say every time I came back to London from Chicago I physically hated London. I hated the Tube, I hated the people, I hated the way the coffee tasted and how there was no one to look after me when I was sick. I would spend weeks despising this city and country and vowing to move back to the United States as soon as I had the chance.

After a few weeks of getting back into my routine and spending time with my U.K. friends, I’d inevitably get over it. I’d realise that moving home would mean no more going to the pub or getting the train to Paris or drinking Pimms from a can in the sun. Summer would come and I would never feel homesick unless I FaceTimed my parents and they were having a barbecue with my grandparents or going to a baseball game. This cycle went on relatively endlessly, and before I knew it I was celebrating three years in London and halfway to being a British citizen. This year, however, was different.

Like most other things in my last, I blame most of this on boys, or in this case, one boy. Now that Harry and I live together, for as much as it destroys my ‘hopelessly jaded’ brand, I am ridiculously happy. Returning to reality this January wasn’t difficult because I happen to really like my reality. I have a wonderful flat with a garden, a boyfriend who will binge You on Netflix with me and run out to the store when we’re out of bananas, and a job that isn’t always a dream, but affords me the ability to be here, living the rest of this wonderful life. So yes, for the first time, coming back to London was easy. It was leaving home that is still, and will always be, so goddamn excruciating.

I love my life in Chicago. I love harsh winters and brutal summers and pizza and the White Sox and most importantly I love the friends and family without which Chicago would just be a beer soaked, sports crazed shell of a home. And don’t get me wrong, I know exactly how fortunate I am that my biggest burden is being so in love with two different places and the people in them at once. I will never stop being grateful for that, but it is agony. For every memory that I am making in Europe, for every moment spent watching the Queen go by in a carriage at Royal Ascot or visiting pubs older than my entire country in Kent, I am missing my little sister’s first day of middle school or my cousin’s graduation party. How am I supposed to enjoy what I have here when for every memorable experience I have, there are five that I am missing out on at home? It’s a predicament that can never be solved, but it is also one that will never stop aching no matter how happy I am. It is just as much a blessing as it is a heartbreaking curse.

The only prescription I’ve managed to give myself to deal with this cross to bear is cripplingly cliche: living in the moment. I am in London now, making memories every day that most people wouldn’t dream of making in their lifetime. Sometimes, I’m even lucky enough to make those memories with my family when they are able to visit me. I am so lucky to be living this life, and it would be a poor expression of gratitude for me to spend the precious moments here lamenting whether I should be somewhere else. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and I wouldn’t be here without the love and support of everyone back at home.

At my dad’s 50th birthday dinner, which happened to be in London with several of my friends, we all went around the table and said what we thought our idea of heaven was. My best friend Elizabeth, who is also an American ex-pat, said her idea of heaven would be all of the people she loves living on the same street. This was quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard because it completely captured my own sentiment. I don’t know if I believe in heaven and even if it does exist I’m skeptical I’d get an invite, but if it does exist I hope that I love on a street block with every person I hold dear to me, with a pub on one side of the street and a Connie’s Pizza on the other.

 

Farewell to the Bridget Jones Years

I am most definitely on the extreme side of the extroversion scale. I once read that the true difference between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts (generally) gain energy from being around others, while introverts tend to feel drained by being around others. This makes perfect sense to me, because I have always felt that being around other human beings fuels me like a Red Bull and an ice cold shower. I purposely pack my calendar full of dinners, brunches, and coffee catchups with friends because spending time with people I admire gives me a deeper sense of connection and belonging. Despite being a proud fan of the coveted ‘Duvet Day,’ I find that I end up hating the way my throat feels after an entire day of not talking to another human being. (Before you accuse me of loving the sound of my own voice – of course I do. I have a podcast.)

With all of that being said, it will probably come as a surprise that I have lived entirely by myself for the past two years, have loved every goddamn minute of it, and genuinely believe that every extrovert should live on their own at some point if given the opportunity. By the time I moved into my tiny one bed flat in Battersea, I had lived in boarding school dorms, college dorms, a Chicago apartment with the Rachel to my Monica, and a flatshare in North London with a couple who turned into lifelong friends. I feel like I have earned the right to say that I’ve seen it all. I’ve woken up at 2AM to the smoke alarms after my college flatmate and I fell asleep with a pizza in the oven. I’ve begged my high school roommates to keep guard while I snuck a boy into my dorm. I’ve even had to ask a randomly allocated college dorm mate to please stop blogging about my private phone conversations with my mom (God, college is a weird place).

When I packed up my bedroom in my North London flatshare and ventured south of the river, I was so ready to start my solo journey that it didn’t faze me when friends and coworkers asked, ‘But won’t you get lonely? Don’t you want people to talk to in the evenings? Won’t you get bored?’ In fact, I only felt apprehension twice when moving into my own place: once when I saw my credit card bill after buying all of the essentials you need to live on your own (living solo is obscenely expensive) and once when I watched the episode of Sex and the City where Miranda has to give herself the Heimlich Maneuver using the corner of her countertop because she starts to choke and has no one to help her. Besides these two crises, once I lugged all of my stuff into my tiny Victorian conversion flat I never really looked back. I knew that living entirely by myself was an opportunity I never had before, and an opportunity that might not come again, so I grabbed it.

I think a common misconception about extroverts is that we always want to be around people. While I do agree with the idea that extroverts obtain energy from socializing, we are still human beings. I get stressed and tired and moody and hungover just as much (read: probably more) than any other person, and in these moments there is nothing I love more than to cancel all of my plans and completely isolate myself from society. You see, this is exactly why living alone is so beneficial for hyper extroverts like me. I love nothing more than to socialize all day and every day, but I only like to do so when I am bringing my best self. Living alone has allowed me to choose exactly when I want to be my normal, extremely extroverted self, and when I just want the world to sod off. When I’ve had a long, crappy day at work, I can come home and fester in solitude without having to subject anyone else to my less than desirable mood. Living solo has given me the ability to fully ‘switch off’ and bring a better version of myself to work in the morning.

I’ve started to refer to this period of my life as the Bridget Jones Years because to me that’s exactly what it has been. It has been a massive period of growth where I have somehow simultaneously managed to learn how to take care of myself, but also come home from a night out at 4AM, accidentally spending £30 on a drunk takeaway that I won’t even be awake to collect. I’ve learned how to manage the 70 bills a month associated with renting in London, broken boilers, and passive aggressive neighbors. I’ve left dirty dishes in the sink after a long day because the only person who can be annoyed with me tomorrow is me, and I’m generally fairly forgiving. My flat has been my sanctuary for home cooked meals on a Tuesday night, for crying on the phone to my mom on a Sunday afternoon, and for not having to explain to anyone who the overnight guest was on a Saturday morning.

I don’t ever remember anyone telling me that the ages of 23-25 are particularly formative, but to me I think they might have been the most pivotal in my life thus far. As I sit in what remains of my Bridget Jones flat in Battersea, I find myself reflecting on the past two years with the sort of clarity that only comes with hindsight. I’m sure it won’t be long until I am feeling nostalgic for this period of my life, but I am fortunate enough to have found someone whom I prefer to be with far more than I enjoy being alone. I haven’t thought of a clever name for the period I am entering, and I find the term ‘cohabiting’ incredibly cringe worthy. All I know is that I’m as excited, if not more, for this journey than I was for the last… and at least now I will have someone to give me the Heimlich.

 

Why I Can’t Stop Watching the Finale of Fleabag

“Love is awful. It’s awful. It’s painful. It’s frightening. It makes you doubt yourself, judge yourself, distance yourself from the other people in your life. It makes you selfish. It makes you creepy, makes you obsessed with your hair, makes you cruel, makes you say and do things you never thought you would do. It’s all any of us want, and it’s hell when we get there. So no wonder it’s something we don’t want to do on our own. I was taught if we’re born with love then life is about choosing the right place to put it. People talk about that a lot, feeling right, when it feels right it’s easy. But I’m not sure that’s true. It takes strength to know what’s right. And love isn’t something that weak people do. Being a romantic takes a hell of a lot of hope. I think what they mean is, when you find somebody that you love, it feels like hope.”

Spoilers to follow. If you haven’t watched Fleabag by now, what are you doing??

The series finale to BBC’s Fleabag aired nearly 7 months ago, and yet for some reason I’ve re-watched the episode upwards of ten times since it was originally broadcast. I think it might be one of the most beautiful pieces of television I’ve watched in my entire life, and every time I re-watch it I find a different reason why.

It’s God, isn’t it?

I have watched the final scene of Fleabag so many times that if it were a VHS it would be gray and fuzzy. The scene is so heartbreakingly engrained in my brain that whenever I hear Alabama Shakes’ ‘This Feeling,’ I immediately feel melancholy. Over the course of two series, we bear to witness the sheer chaos that is Fleabag’s relationships with everyone around her. She resents her (soon-to-be) step-mother (and with good reason), seems incapable of connecting with men outside of sex, and is constantly grappling with the role that she played in the loss of her best friend, Boo. The only person that seems to ‘get’ Fleabag, at times even against her will, is the Priest. It is for this reason that it is so incredibly heartbreaking watching Fleabag and the Priest sit at the bus stop and simultaneously come to the realisation that they love each other, but can never be together. ‘It’s God, isn’t it?’ Fleabag says, her voice cracking.

The first time I watched this scene it ripped my heart open, and out spilled the countless times I have been in Fleabag’s shoes. For me, instead of waiting for a bus, I was sitting at the edge of a boy’s bed with one shoe on, desperately trying to get him to explain why he couldn’t love me before my Uber arrived. I can’t even remember what he said, and it took me awhile to realise that it didn’t really matter. Still I wish, like the Priest, that he had blamed God. At least then, I would know that my heartbreak was because of something bigger than me, regardless of what I actually believe. Instead, the only certainty I was given was the look on his face that said I would never see him again.

‘I love you.’ ‘It’ll pass.’ This line hit me so hard in the proverbial feels that I just impulsively paid £12 on Etsy to have it engrained on a necklace. Love does pass. That is the thing about love and grief – they come and go and will eventually pass over you if you let them. This, however, does not ease the pain of someone that you love encouraging you to let it pass. Nor, in the case of the Priest, does it ease the pain of telling someone who loves you and whom you love back that they should let you go. In summary, this five word exchange is sheer agony to witness on screen. Despite how close to home this scene always hits, I commend Fleabag for avoiding the stereotypical happy ending and instead tying up Fleabag’s loose ends in a way that is real and universal. Whether you want to comfort Fleabag from experience that she will get through this, or cry on her shoulder because ‘it’ still hasn’t passed over you, this moment is an incredibly accessible display of heartbreak.

My sister, who in many ways is the Claire to my Fleabag, has always had this idea that Netflix should let you make episode playlists based on different moods or themes. I think she came up with this idea for the purpose of making a Christmas playlist of all the best Christmas episodes of FriendsThe OfficeHow I Met Your Mother, but I imagine my Netflix playlists would be a lot more emotionally self indulgent. Fleabag‘s finale would be on the top of my playlist for when I simply need to feel, when I’m hungover and anxious, when I had a long meaningless day at work, when I just want to feel a little indulgent catharsis. This is the essence of Fleabag, the fact that for all its outlandishness, it is so incredibly raw. None of us are Fleabag, and yet amidst her heartbreak, lust, love, and vulnerability, Fleabag is all of us.

How Fleetwood Mac Has Carried Me Through My Twenties

I’ve loved Fleetwood Mac as long as I can remember. In fact, I’ve loved Fleetwood Mac since before I even knew who Fleetwood Mac was. I grew up singing along to the likes of ‘Rhiannon’, ‘The Chain’ and ‘Dreams,’ but it wasn’t until I was about 15 and on a road trip to Wisconsin with my parents that I realised all of these songs were by the same band.

All your life you’ve never a seen a woman taken by the wind

Once I made this connection, Fleetwood Mac were regular repeats on my iPod throughout my teen years. However, it wasn’t until my twenties that I started to really listen to the lyrics and experience them on a visceral level. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the history behind Fleetwood Mac and the recording of Rumours, I highly recommend giving it a Google search on your next lunch break. In summary, in 1976 on the tail of Fleetwood Mac’s massively successful, self-titled album, every member of the band was in complete romantic turmoil. More importantly, they were in complete romantic turmoil with each other. Christine and John McVie divorced after 8 years of marriage, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were constantly on and off again, and Mick Fleetwood found out that his wife was cheating on him with his best friend. Most people would probably take a breather and a step back, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their record producers wanted them to. However, I’m really glad they didn’t. Instead, they joined together in the studio to record one of the greatest albums of all time: Rumours. Songs that are now household names, such as ‘Go Your Own Way’ and ‘Songbird’, were recorded while all the members of Fleetwood Mac where whacked out on cocaine and breaking up with each other. Really puts the drama of your 20s into perspective, doesn’t it? Fleetwood Mac took the most painful, raw feelings that all humans experience in one way or another, and they turned them into art.

I’ve been afraid of changing cause I built my life around you

As if this isn’t astonishing enough, their success was not remotely manufactured. The power of their experiences translated into a platinum studio album as well as one of the greatest live albums ever recorded: The Dance (1997). Personally, I am not a fan of live albums. The sound quality generally leaves much to be desired, and there is something incredibly impersonal about listening to a live concert that you didn’t attend. I’d much rather imagine that Stevie Nicks is singing softly in my ear than listen to thousands of fans cheer in the background. However, The Dance is the only live recorded album that I personally think is better than any studio album that a band has recorded. The reason for this is simple: recording live allowed Fleetwood Mac to live all of the emotion and heartbreak that they felt 22 years prior on stage and for all to see. Next time you fret about running into your ex in the grocery store, think about the fact that Stevie Nicks stared down Lindsey Buckingham in front of thousands of people and sang, ‘You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you.’

I’m not suggesting that we should all drag our exes on stage during our next karaoke night and expect a platinum record and Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame induction. However, there is something to be said for taking the heartbreak that we all have to go through and turning it into something that is bigger than us. Even if that something is just the knowledge that whatever feels like the end of the world right now will probably be a laughing matter sooner than we realise. If Stevie Nicks can walk into a studio with her ex and sing her heart out to songs that he wrote, we can each face seeing our ex-boyfriend with his new girlfriend on Instagram. If Christine McVie can get on stage with her ex-husband over 40 years after they divorced, we can each face work after a rather embarrassing Christmas party performance.

I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain

The history behind Rumours is the stuff of legends. Countless interviews, articles, and books have marveled at the fact that Fleetwood Mac was able to achieve a timeless hit amidst all of the drugs and infidelity. The story that, in my opinion, isn’t told enough, is the story of the female friendship between Nicks and McVie. Too often in our society, the narrative is spun to pit women against each other. Magazines and newspapers can never get enough of the supposed rivals between Beyonce and Rihanna, Jen and Angelina, and the women of Sex and the City. Because I am inundated with this ‘catfight culture’ on a constant basis, I always assumed Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie have a deep rivalry. After years of doing drugs together and recording music with each other’s exes, surely there was some female bad blood? After listening to Christine McVie’s episode of Desert Island Discs, as well as reading a 2013 article from The Guardian, I realised I couldn’t have been more wrong. Nicks and McVie have unwavering support for one another, and have stood by each other’s side through the most challenging times of heartbreak and addiction. This might be the greatest Fleetwood Mac lesson of all for a woman in her twenties: hang on to your girls, your babes, your female tribe, and you can never go too far wrong. Just maybe don’t do as much cocaine.

 

What Running Has Taught Me About Life

“I think I get used to, even addicted to, the feelings associated with the end of a long training run. I love feeling empty, clean, worn out, starving, and sweat-purged. I love the good ache of muscles that have done me proud. I love the way a cold beer tastes later that afternoon. I love the way my body feels light and sinewy.” -Kristin Armstrong

When I finished my final training run of this year’s marathon season, I immediately burst into tears. My first attempt at the ‘Big 20 Miler’ was two weeks prior, and it had gone horrifically. The fact that I was training for my fifth marathon meant nothing to the Marathon Gods. I felt exhausted, achy, dehydrated, and unmotivated. When I finally managed to complete twenty disjointed and uninspired miles, I didn’t even have the energy to cry.

Two weeks later it seemed to all turn around. I kept looking down at my GPS watch and thinking, ‘There is absolutely no way that I can continue to hold this pace for 20 miles. It just won’t happen.’ Somehow, the miles kept slipping away. Eight miles turned into fifteen and every time I thought my pace was slipping, the wind seemed to pick up and the fog in my brain quickly cleared. When I looked down for the final time I had completed the run in under three hours… so I stopped running and started sobbing.

I cried because I didn’t think that I was capable of running like that anymore. I cried because I knew the next time I would run that distance would be in Berlin with my family. But mostly, I cried because, finally, I could remember why I run. I run because to me, running is life. Running is challenging and beautiful and painful and rewarding. Some days it’s an accomplishment to get out there at all, and some days I wish could move in slow motion. Every marathon, every 5k, every 6AM run around the park has taught me a different lesson that I have carried through every other aspect of my life.

For better or for worse, nothing lasts forever

The most beautiful lesson that running has ever taught me is that for better or for worse, nothing lasts forever. In the darkest days of my worst breakup, there were moments where I felt physically suffocated. It was a period of my life where one moment I would be fine, and the next I would feel like the wind had been knocked out of me. It felt like all the color had been drained from my world, and the rest of my life would be bleak shades of black and gray. These feelings were not dissimilar to the darkest period of my toughest marathon. When I hit The Wall, suddenly all of the oxygen had been sucked from Earth. The lights were on, but no one was home. Somehow, through the support of loved ones in the crowd and sheer determination, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and I survived. I do not speak with hyperbole when I say that overcoming challenges as a runner has countlessly saved my life as a human being. Every time my heart is broken or my spirit seems lost, I remind myself that if I could break through The Wall, I will see the other side of this pain, and when I do I will be stronger.

As runners, we each make a deal with the Devil that in order for pain to be overcome, it must be felt. No runner is immune to pain, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something. There are no gels or hydration packs that will stop your legs from feeling heavy in the last miles of a marathon, just like there are no quick fixes or miracle pills that will save you from a bad day at work or a fight with your best friend. For the most part, runners know that the only way to the other side of the tunnel is to run through it, so we lean into the pain. We sit back into it, breathe it in, let it wash over us. And then, just as quickly as it began to hurt, it seems to wash away. I try my best every day to remember this when life itself starts to hurt. I can’t choose when I feel pain, but I can choose to sit back and breathe it in. Just like my hardest races, it won’t last forever.

Of course, the most wonderful things in life and running don’t last forever either. Sunset runs on Lake Michigan, half marathons with my dad, the moment of victory when a heavy marathon medal is placed around my neck – all of these come to an end eventually. Friends move to a different city, favorite coffee shops close their doors – the world will always keep turning in its own wonderful, agonizing way. Because running is often so challenging, the moments of true Runners High serve as a reminder to savor the good moments as long as I possibly can. Just like the painful ones, they are only temporary. In running just as much as life, the good and the bad work together harmoniously and at the finish line I’m left with one feeling: gratitude. I am so grateful for the good runs, the tough runs, the runs where I have the entire path to myself, and the runs where I get to stop midway and hug my mom. I know with certainty that my toughest runs are still ahead of me, but as long as I keep lacing up my shoes, the best is yet to come.